Home Process Adobe Lightroom Basic Adjustments

Adobe Lightroom Basic Adjustments


The Adobe lightroom basic adjustments panel is very powerful and allows you to apply quick and easy adjustments to make any image look way better. 

To start, head into the develop module.  Click the tab up top (or press D) to enter. If you are not familiar with the different modules you can check out our "Adobe LIGHTROOM Introduction" article. All the tabs for different adjustments are on the right side when in the develop module.  The first tab is the Histogram which is a graphic representation of the image and is a good way to evaluate the lighting of an image.  The majority of adjustments take place in the basic tab which lies just below the histogram.  This is the only tab that we are going to cover today.   Although it is called basic, it contains all the most important adjustments like: White Balance sliders, Exposure, Recovery, Fill light, Blacks, Brightness, Contrast, Clarity, Saturation, and Vibrance .

To set the correct White Balance, use the eyedropper(white balance selector tool)  and sample a neutral light gray area of the image.  Lightroom applies the white balance setting and moves the Temp and Tint sliders automatically.  If you are not satisfied with the results you can always fine tune it by manually adjusting the sliders

People often treat Exposure and Brightness like they are the same adjustment, but they are not!  Exposure adjusts the entire image, while Brightness is based on mid tones.  Alway's start with exposure first and adjust brightness later.  It's best to work the basics panel from the top down for a natural workflow.

Next is the Recovery tool which you will use if you have washed or blown highlights.  If you overexposed the image by accident and the highlights have no detail, then you can recover up to 2 stops of detail with this tool.  

After recovery is the Fill light slider which brightens the mid-shadows without touching the highlights.  It doesn't affect the darkest shadows either.  It is easy to over-use it and ruin shadows, so be careful with it.  If you overuse this adjustment it will be very obvious.

The next slider is for the "Blacks" or the darkest shadows of your image. This is the opposite of the fill light slider and will make the shadows darker.  Darkening shadows or "blacks" will add contrast to your image.  If you hold the "Alt/Option" key while moving the slider, the screen display's only the deepest blacks.  Hold the Alt/option key and move the slider to the right until you start seeing some black pixels to determine the best setting for this slider.

Below this slider is the Contrast slider which will darken the blacks and brighten the whites to give the image a stronger and more contrasty look. (Yes, we used the word "contrast" in the definition for "contrast," sorry Webster.)

After contrast is the Clarity slider, which will add local contrast to the image.  It finds the larger edges and adds contrast to them specifically.  Clarity is very similar to sharpening and can be easy to overdo.

The next slider is the Vibrance slider which increases color saturation in the under-saturated tones but does not affect the mid and already brightly saturated tones.  It works well with action sports because  it can make the image have more "pop".

Finally we have the Saturation slider.  This slider increases the saturation of all the tones.  Slide it to the left to create a black and white image, or the right to give your image a ton of color!  

The lightroom basic adjustments panel contains all that you need to start creating very good looking edits at a fast pace.  We would advise you to spend some time playing with all these sliders and figure out what every one of them does to your photos.  These are all a fundamental part of Lightroom or almost any photo editing software that you use.

Before and after some basic Lightroom adjustments.


Next Guide Article:  Exporting with Adobe Lightroom


  1. Hi,

    I love the site…I think it will be a great success for you. In the above article on Lightroom Adjustments, it may be useful to show what was adjusted in a specific image to increase the apearance… For example Firstly I reduced the Exposure by xxx then I increased the vvv by zzz etc etc …It may help to show the effects visually as well as by the written word.

  2. Love your website! Wish I had found it months ago when I was buying a camera – the advice would have been so helpful.

    Similar thoughts to the comment above, great tutorial but it would be really helpful if you went through an example, explaining in detail how you transformed the photo pictured in this tutorial! If you could still make that, it would be much appreciated! haha

    • Hey Alex,

      Thanks for the feedback! We are putting together a video tutorial that shows the adjustment. It will be posted in the next week. Please let us know if you have any other questions for us and be sure to checkout the forum as well.



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